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Intel Core i7 2600K and Core i5 2500K Review

ccokeman    -   January 2, 2011
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Conclusion:

There is no doubt about it, Sandybridge is hot and offers great overclocking headroom with the K-Spec CPUs. The one thing that struck me when I first had a glimpse of the potential of these processors at an ASUS-sponsored event, was how cool they actually run with a big overclock. The VRM heat sink temperatures were much higher than the CPU, even with a modest heat sink. The CoolerMaster Hyper 212 with a single fan was used and the load temperatures delivered were in the low to mid 60s Celsius. Impressive to say the least. The overclocking testing was accomplished with the Intel DHX-B tower cooler and, even with some big volts, the temperatures did not climb higher than the low 80s when using above 1.45v. By using my standard testbed cooling, the Noctua NH-U12P, they never came out of the 60s Celsius. Fine tuning the voltage would reduce the temperatures even further. With that being said, the overclocks achieved on these two examples of the Sandybridge lineup were literally the highest overclocks I have gotten on air cooling of any kind on any processor. 4.62GHz on the 2600K and 4.77GHz on the 2500K are just amazing for a new architecture and my first run through with them. So what do you say now about overclocking being dead on Sandybridge? Dead? I think not! And to top that, you can overclock with all the energy saving settings enabled so you get the best of both worlds - lower power consumption when you are idle and speed and performance when called for. You get it all.

Overclocking is only one aspect of these processors, but is really the reason for a K-Spec version. Performance-wise, the Sandybridge lineup was a complete surprise. In pretty much all the processor-based benchmarks, the pair performed as a newer architecture should and trounced the field, save for the Intel 980X. The higher base clock speeds definitely don't hurt the cause either, as most people buy processors and overclock them, so higher clock speeds equal greater performance and that sells. Bottom line, the performance can't be denied. C'mon, 4.6GHz and 4.77GHz can't be all bad!

Seeing as how these chips are for the mainstream market, they most likely will fall into the hands of those who thrive on manipulating and working with high definition video content, or maybe they will just be used in the next household computer replacement. In that role, the second generation Core series processors will excel. The casual gaming needs will be met with the integrated HD 3000 graphics. When I tested the Clarkdale processor earlier this year, anything other than some World of Warcraft or The Sims were unplayable. The improvement in graphics power is huge - Batman: Arkham Asylum was playable at 1680 x 1050 with medium settings, with the 2600K achieving 40 FPS. Far Cry 2 was playable at 40 FPS in DX9 mode with low settings at 1680x1050. This was not possible with the last generation, even when overclocked. If you are a gamer and want to get the most from games, a discrete card or cards will still be the way to go. Both AMD and NVIDIA multi-GPU solutions are supported and to check this out I popped in three GTX 580s and ran some tests to see where the performance fell. It really did quite well considering the CPU was limited to 3.8GHz in Turbo Boost mode.

Compressing media for use on portable devices is something we all do. Sandybridge does this very well. Intel has worked with companies such as Corel, WinDVD and Arcsoft and many more to have software available to take advantage of the abilities of this processor family. In my testing of the 2600K and 2500K processors, the speed-up when comparing the time it took to convert a file for use on my HTC incredible with the CPU vs the time to convert it with Intel Quick Sync enabled were on the order of 4x+ and 5x+. That's a substantial reduction in time, which means gained productivity or getting that time back with your family and friends. What this all boils down to is a new series of processors that deliver excellent performance across all aspects for a mid range price point. Intel has a winner with Sandybridge.

Pros:

  • Awesome overclocking
  • Lower temperatures
  • Great performance
  • Lower power consumpotion
  • Great media capabilities
  • Strong Integrated graphics solution
  • Pricing

Cons:

  • None
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